In the return of our weekly Fantasy Football Stock Market article, we will be highlighting players that you should buy (undervalued) and sell (overvalued). We will also provide information on Penny Stock players – players outside the top 250 in ADP or on waivers in the deepest of fantasy leagues that could pay off huge dividends at little or no cost to your fantasy team. We will be focusing on one position per week, starting with wide receivers.
Hines Ward – Pittsburgh Steelers
At age 33, Hines Ward turned in his second consecutive top-15 fantasy season at WR and has shown no signs of slowing down. Ward turned in an impressive 2009 season with a 73.6% catch percentage on 129 targets after catching 69.2% of his 130 targets in 2008. Ward ranked sixth in the NFL in catch percentage, 10th in targets, and tied for seventh with 11 missed/broken tackles. Ward remained one of the best run blocking wide receivers in the league.
Because Mike Wallace has generated more buzz this offseason, Ward remains severely underrated at this point even as the top WR on the depth chart. With the trade of Santonio Holmes to the Jets this offseason, Ward will see an increase in targets. Ward enters the season at age 34, and many fantasy owners will downgrade him in their rankings because they fear a drop-off in production. Furthermore, Ben Roethlisberger will miss 4-6 games due to suspension and there is talk from ownership wanting to return to a power-running philosophy.
These reasons will cause Ward to fall further than he should in your draft and all signs point to Ward posting his third top-15 season in a row.
Johnny Knox – Chicago Bears
This Pro Bowl alternate (for fellow rookie Percy Harvin) led the Bears’ receivers in touchdowns, despite not starting a game and playing a limited role in the base offense. Even though Knox is currently listed as a starter on the depth chart next to Devin Hester, many fantasy owners are expecting a breakout season from journeyman Devin Aromashodu based on the four TDs he scored in the last four weeks of the season (including the fantasy playoffs). Aromashodu last played in the NFL in 2007 for the Colts before reappearing on the Bears in 2009.
While Aromashodu has the size and physicality to deserve playing time for the height-challenged Bears WRs, Knox is the better fit for Mike Martz’s new offense with his dynamic play-making ability and speed. Knox currently has the lowest ADP of the top three WRs and could easily finish as their top fantasy WR. Knox’s value will never be lower, and is he worth taking a chance on that he develops into a consistent 1,000 yard – 6 TD threat each year.
Pierre Garcon – Indianapolis Colts
Pierre Garcon is a player generating plenty of unwarranted buzz. Garcon was targeted 92 times, often on deep routes, in 2009 and finished third on the team in that category behind Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. Garcon averaged 16.3 yards per reception and scored four TDs in relief of injured starter Anthony Gonzalez. If you look deeper into the numbers, Gonzalez was a more effective player in 2008 in the same role Garcon filled last season. Garcon also doesn’t fit the mold of a traditional Colts WR: He caught only 52% of his targets and was penalized nine times for various bone-headed decisions.
If Anthony Gonzalez can prove he is over his knee injury, he will give Garcon a run for the starting flanker position. Garcon is being drafted in the fifth to six round, which is a risky proposition for a player who is not guaranteed a starting position.
Robert Meachem – New Orleans Saints
Robert Meachem finished as the 22nd overall fantasy receiver. Most of his fantasy production came from his nine TDs, despite only averaging four targets per game and playing fewer snaps than starters Marques Colston and Devery Henderson. Many fantasy owners are ready to project a bigger 2010 season with increased targets amount from QB Drew Brees. Projecting Meachem’s production on last year’s stats would be foolhardy; he has little chance of repeating his touchdown total. What does remain the same is the Saints will continue to spread the ball around to all their offensive weapons. Meachem could struggle to live up to his current ADP, unless he sees a dramatic increase in targets or an injury occurs to Colston or Henderson.
Nate Washington – Tennessee Titans
For those ready to pencil in rookie Damian Williams into the starting lineup next to second-year WR Kenny Britt, not so fast. Although Nate Washington did not live up to his huge free agent contract in 2009, he still scored six TDs and was targeted six times per game from QB Vince Young.
In deeper leagues, consider taking Washington as one of your last WRs; he will have the same role in 2010 as the team’s deep threat downfield. With the emergence of Kenny Britt, Washington could return to the role he had for the Steelers playing the second or third fiddle. One thing is clear; Washington was severely miscast as a No. 1 WR last year.
Michael Jenkins – Atlanta Falcons
The once shiny luster of being a first round selection from Ohio State has worn off for 28 year-old Michael Jenkins. At this point in his career, he is a steady 50-catch per season WR who will be the third target for QB Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. Currently, Jenkins is not even being drafted in most leagues.
Jenkins should be a late round flier or worth monitoring on waivers: WRs that are targeted six times per game by a young QB on the rise are not always available so cheaply. A return to 50 receptions, 777 yards and three touchdowns to mirror his 2008 production is not out of the question – and that production came in Ryan’s rookie season.